Philippe Rouxel, Vice President, Worldwide Distribution, France 24
France 24 is one of the leading sources of French and European news around the globe, and the broadcaster wants to build its brand and compete with the heavyweights such as CNN, BBC World News and Al Jazeera. France 24’s strategy includes broadcasting in multiple languages and to multiple devices. Philippe Rouxel, vice president, worldwide distribution for France 24, discusses the impact on the broadcaster’s demands for satellite capacity.
VIA SATELLITE: Are you looking for further capacity beyond deals signed with AsiaSat and ArabSat?
Rouxel: In terms of pure broadcast distribution, we need to be more regionally specific and become more geographically focused in getting satellite capacity than we have done so far. Nevertheless, at the end of 2010, what we achieved and completed is a C-band global satellite footprint including AsiaSat in the Asia region, Galaxy 23 in North America and Intelsat 9 in Latin America. In 2011, we will need further Ku-band and satellite capacity, similar to the recent deal concluded with ArabSat in 2010. This would allow us to move forward with different DTH operators such as Sky Brasil, Sky Mexico and DirecTV Latin America, for example. Similarly, in the Asia-Pacific region, we will need to get onto the Astro DTH Platform in Malaysia (on a Measat satellite) and on the SkyLife Bouquet in South Korea (on Koreasat).
VIA SATELLITE: What is next in terms of satellite?
Rouxel: We now aim to go deeper and more into a fine-tuning mode, going into local markets. We will need to offer more to operators on the ground, be they DTH, cable, IPTV, mobile, etc. to be able to downlink different versions of France 24 so they can add France 24 into their various bouquets.
VIA SATELLITE: What impact is new broadcasting technology having on your business?
Rouxel: All the new technologies and all the new formats have a positive impact on our business models and can also have immediate repercussions in terms of our cost structure. We have to be extremely careful in the way we migrate from one standard to another. We also have to look at whether we can have simulcast scenarios without overspending on satellite capacity, for example, but we also need to look at the capital expenditure requirements for the studios.
VIA SATELLITE: What major initiatives is France 24 working on in terms of content delivery?
Rouxel: The idea for us is to now think how we can stay a step ahead of other international news suppliers. The audiences have a choice when they want to be in touch with international events. In terms of multimedia development, what we are going to do is improve and upgrade all of our existing applications. You have the obvious ones such as the iPhone and iPad, but you also have the Symbian, the Samsung, etc. That is something we will keep pushing. We also want to embark upon the world of connected television as everybody else should. We are now testing to make sure we have this capability.
VIA SATELLITE: What are your plans for adding HD content?
Rouxel: The first step, which we completed earlier this January, was to switch France 24 to the 16:9 format on our three feeds on all of the different satellites. During the next 18 months, we will progressively upgrade the content we produce ourselves into HD as well as find ways to upgrade the non-native HD content that we receive. We have a lot of footage that comes from outside. This is the big issue for any news channel. Offering a 100 percent proper news channel in HD takes time because of all the different types of cameras out there, some of them not being able to convert into HD in one go. For sure, it is going to be a step-by-step approach. We want to have the perfect roadmap to migrate everything into HD as soon as we can but also to be able to answer the short- and mid-term needs of the different platforms where we need to be available. However, there are international differences concerning HD. Some platforms are clearly HD-oriented, and for some, like in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, it is not there yet in such a big way. HD will start with us with live transmissions in territories such as Asia first, North and South America probably before Europe, the Middle East and Africa.